Introduction: Perennial Philosophy Historicized

The mainstay of perennial philosophy is the problem of “the one and the many.” In the hands of Plato this problem was resolved by an economical philosophy, the consequence of which was a bifurcated and hierarchical world which degraded the poetical and productive expressions of history. Aristotle first exposed the redundancy in Plato’s philosophy, and this ruling has marked philosophical discussion since. In extolling the virtue of matter’s inherent teleological impulse, Aristotle presaged the value of historical development which was to occupy nineteenth-century intellectual history. The core of developmental thinking in the nineteenth century expressed the ontological verity of the emergent, as witnessed in Darwinism, but as with Darwinism a final telos is abandoned in favor of spontaneously generated life forms that are at once continuous with and a conversion of the store of the historical past. Having thus displaced the convention of a transcendent paradigm, historicism’s inaugural incarnation was occupied with discovering an Archimedean point from which values and standards could obtain moral leverage in the face of the flux of history.


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